George Wallace 1895-1960

George Wallace

George Wallace

Late in 1919 Wallace formed a double act with Jack Paterson. As Dinks and Onkus
(‘The Two Drunks’).

George Wallace made his Tivoli debut at the end of 1929 during a brief period when the Melbourne Tiv was under Fullers’ control.

Early in 1932 Wallace made his screen debut in a seven-minute short called George Wallace – Australia’s Premier Comedian.

 

Late in 1919 Wallace formed a double act with Jack Paterson. As Dinks and Onkus
(‘The Two Drunks’) they perfected a knockabout comedy act inspired by the success of Stiffy and Mo. Within a year  they were Clay’s most popular performers, regularly playing to full houses. The partnership survived for five years, though Paterson’s role steadily diminished. He went on to form a double act with his wife; as Dinks and Trixie they were a popular variety attraction for years. An expert baton spinner, Dinks proudly led his unit in countless Sydney Anzac Day parades until his death in 1982.

By mid-1922 Wallace was touring Australia and New Zealand for Fullers’ with his own supporting players. ‘Onkus and His Merry Company’ included Marshall Crosby as Wallace’s straight man and Maida Jones his leading lady. They were supported by eight or nine other stalwarts. Typical programs concluded with a miniature musical comedy, invariably written and directed by – and starring – the multi-talented George Wallace. Harmony Row and His Royal Highness, later successful motion pictures, started life this way. George was also largely responsible for the music: Harmony Row, for instance, contained five original numbers.

George Wallace made his Tivoli debut at the end of 1929 during a brief period when the Melbourne Tiv was under Fullers’ control. The Herald approved: ‘With an atmosphere of old-fashioned extravaganza, a dash of modern revue, the dancing of musical comedy, and a suggestion of a plot, George Wallace provides good entertainment.’

The Depression and the talkies cruelly eroded live theatre and threw many of the country’s best performers out of work. In December 1931 Wallace gamely put his own savings into a production of Cinderella at the Melbourne Bijou, with himself as a somewhat unconventional Buttons. Soon after this, Melbourne entrepreneur Francis W. Thring recruited him as a star attraction for his newly established Efftee film productions.

Early in 1932 Wallace made his screen debut in a seven-minute short called George Wallace – Australia’s Premier Comedian, in which he introduced ‘The Dance of the Wounded Wombat (‘as recently performed by the famous Russian dancer, Palmolive’) – a documentation of his light-as-a-feather dancing and his bone-cracking pratfalls. Later that year came a two-reeler, Oh, What a Night!, and his first feature, His Royal Highness, an elaborate musical filmed on the stage of the fire-damaged His Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne. Wallace’s other Efftee films were Harmony Row (1933) and A Ticket in Tatts (1934). On stage he starred for Thring in the Australian musical Collits’ Inn (1933), The Beloved Vagabond (1934) and a series of revues at the Princess in Melbourne in 1935. In February 1936 Thring announced that Wallace would star for him in a new film, A’sweepin’ the Deep. It was never made: Thring died on 1 July.

In 1936 Mike Connors and Queenie Paul engaged Wallace to head a new revue company; this debuted at the Victoria Theatre, Newcastle, in June, and played to packed houses around New Zealand until well into 1937. On his return Wallace starred in two Cinesound films directed by Ken G. Hall: Let George Do It (1938) and Gone to the Dogs (1939).

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Biographical references

Nancye Bridges: Curtain Call, Cassell, 1980
Victoria Chance: ‘George Wallace’, in Companion to Theatre in Australia, Currency Press, 1995
Raymond Evans: ‘George Leonard Wallace’, in Australian Dictionary of Biography, volume 16, Melbourne University Press
Jim Murphy, Don Percy and Ian Woodward: Funny by George, TV documentary, 1999
Stuart Sayers: ‘George Stevenson Wallace’ in Australian Dictionary of Biography, volume 12
Frank Van Straten: Tivoli, Lothian Books, 2003